Live: Extra Golden/Grandfather Child

Extra Golden pic #1
Extra Golden. (l to r) Onyango Wuod Omari, Ian Eagleson, Onyango Jagwasi, & Alex Minoff.
Photo by G.A. Minoff.

WALTER'S ON WASHINGTON -- 5/23/2009: One of the happiest effects of punk rock on the past three decades has been the rejuvenation of indigenous musics for mainstream audiences. The retooling of Delta blues, Ghanian highlife, and even Bohemian polka by the likes of David Byrne and the Old Crow Medicine Show has shed light on an interesting trade-off between two traditions. It's obvious enough that the old-timers enjoy renewed attention and overdue reverence (occasionally with a slight bump in record revenues). What is less apparent is how the young and disaffected find themselves embracing music that serves as a soundtrack to social cohesion and public joy. Having jumped ship on the bland musical trends of their time, they wind up embracing music that is rooted in particular communities and traditions.
Houston was treated to two outstanding examples of this trend on a low-key Saturday night show at Walter's On Washington. Grandfather Child treated the audience to a rapturous take on a blend of American-born styles -- blues, R&B, soul, and especially gospel figured into a raucous set featuring some of the most notable names in the city. The pet project of Satin Hooks' Lucas Gorham, in which he picks a lap steel to within an inch of its life, the band is rounded out by Lake Jackson wunderkind Robert Ellis on bass, Ryan Chavez on drums, and I Am Mesmer/Sideshow Tramp Geoffrey Muller on standard six-string. Mueller had a sub for this show, a player who adequately acquitted himself by pulling out the sound of a B-3 organ on top of fret-singeing guitar licks.
Sounding as tight and rehearsed as the Stax house band, they alternately whipped through blues-based barn-burners, slow-burning R&B ballads, and a highly spirited revival tune in praise of The Universe (which found the rhythm section moving through the crowd offering hearty salutations of "welcome to planet Earth!"). Grandfather Child may well be the most musically accomplished and gleefully rambunctious of the current crop of Houston upstarts blowing the dust off their parents' record collections.
Extra Golden is a half-Kenyan, half-Washington, DC-based band playing benga, a guitar-based party music original to Kenya's capital city of Nairobi. Even sounding tour-tight from the previous three months of shows, it was uncertain at first how major-chord-heavy and highly rhythmic African party music would go over in a city as notoriously arm-crossing as Houston. Fortunately, it took the band only one song to compel a strong minority of the crowd to crack smiles and shuffle their feet.
Augmented by a tour bassist, the twin guitars of Ian Eagleson and Alex Minoff shone out line after line of interwoven, contrapuntal melodies, sunny as a Lagos summer. Vocalist Opiyo Bilongo worked the crowd like a veteran showman, teasing them between songs with promises of song titles and exhortations to dance more--which he modeled with a wry smile when not singing--in a delightfully, fluidly accented English. Tying everything together was Onyango Wuo Omari, channeling the polyrhythmic finesse of Tony Allen through patterns that took in Cuban rhumba and salsa rhythms as well as benga. After almost an hour of joyful give-and-take between the players and the listeners, Opiyo invited everyone up on the stage to dance among the musicians, blurring the lines between Nairobi night clubs and sweaty basement dance parties beyond recognition. END

Grandfather Child plays Sunday, August 9th at the Free Press Summerfest in Eleanor Tinsley Park, along with about a million other bands.